(written from a Production point of view)
This summary is of a story arc from the newspaper comic strip Star Trek.
Admiral Yaramoto calls James T. Kirk to his office and informs him that he has been permanently reassigned to shore duty. After all, Kirk is an admiral and his recent command of the USS Enterprise was always understood to be temporary. Rather than put up with shore duty, Kirk resigns. Meeting Leonard McCoy on the streets of San Francisco, Kirk informs him that he has quit Starfleet. They enter a bar and a four-eyed alien named Morbus, overhearing their conversation, inquires whether Kirk would be interested in serving as captain on the independent trader ship Orion. Kirk accepts, saying he "must have a ship." McCoy is not able to talk him out of it, so says he will go along. Kirk is surprised, but McCoy reminds him that he was "mobilized on reserve, and it's about time I was de-mobilized."
Meanwhile, in spacedock, the crew is abuzz about the news. All Spock can say, however, is "interesting", which irks Scotty. Spock replies with "intriguing" when Uhura informs him that Starfleet intelligence reports contain irregularities in the Orion's registration files.
The Orion lifts off and Kirk's new career lifts off with it. On a tour of the ship, Morbus points out to Kirk the cargo hold, with many units to be shipped to Epsilon-21. Kirk had been told they were farm equipment, but when he presses Morbus for more information, Morbus tells Kirk the details are not his concern. Kirk is dissatisfied with the answer and decides to find out what the secret is. While Kirk relaxes with Morbus watching a hologram, McCoy searches the hold. As he finds something amazing, he is hit from behind by a crewman. The same crewman then reports to Kirk that McCoy is injured. They go to the hold where McCoy lays, unconscious, on the floor. The ship's doctor determines that McCoy will live, but that he will have to be sedated until after they reach Epsilon-21.
Kirk is suspicious. He goes down to engineering, ostensibly to conduct a spot inspection. Kirk pushes a single button and, having done so, pronounces everything satisfactory. As he leaves the crew speak in hushed whispers that it was time they rid themselves of James T. Kirk. But Kirk has other plans, and investigates the hold himself. In there he finds the cargo boxes are filled with alien slaves. Morbus finds out about Kirk's discovery and confronts him in the cargo hold. Kirk reasons that Morbus had used Kirk's reputation to get the Orion cleared for departure, and Morbus confirms he now plans to kill him.
But Kirk has had plans of his own. He programmed the engines to overload unless he provides the proper abort signal in the next sixty minutes. Morbus reminds Kirk that that would also kill McCoy. And Kirk then considers the innocent slaves. He backs down, cancels the overload, and is imprisoned in a cargo box with the slaves. The Orion then proceeds along its course. Suddenly, the Enterprise appears, firing a warning shot across the bow of the ship. The bridge crew informs Spock that the Orion is Kirk's new ship, a fact Spock acknowledges but says is irrelevant to his actions.
McCoy awakes in the box along with Kirk and the alien slaves. Kirk tells McCoy he blames himself for the whole thing, that it resulted from his arrogance and his acting like a child after his command was taken away. But then the aliens speak to Kirk and McCoy. They are the Maroni, "an ancient people with telepathic and empathic abilities... a peaceful race." They have allowed themselves to be treated as slaves for a hundred years while they observed the races of the galaxy and learned. Now, they are ready to act. Morbus's crewman interrupts the conversation and demands that Kirk accompany him to the command center, as Morbus wants Kirk to stop the Enterprise. As he is doing so, Spock provides the Orion an ultimatum: evacuate their crew in one minute or be destroyed. Kirk refuses to intercede, much to the surprise of Morbus. But during that minute, the Moroni join telepathically and form a single, unified mind that touches the other minds on the ship to change them. The Moroni succeed, telepathically revealing to the crew "the error of their ways". Kirk then tries to contact Spock to abort the destruction of the ship, with less than a second to go. He fails, but the Moroni leader informs Kirk it is not necessary; that they have been in constant telepathic contact with Spock before the vessel left Earth.
Starfleet Command confirms Kirk's return to active duty status, although Spock retains command of the Enterprise. Kirk is confused by the outcome, though. If Spock knew about the slaves, why did he do nothing about it? Spock replies that the Moroni indicated that Kirk had the situation well in hand. Scott feels chagrined, thinking all the time that Spock was simply uncaring about Kirk being on the Orion and heartless. Spock tells him that after all the years they have known each other, that he should know "Vulcans are heartless, anatomically speaking".
Kirk and McCoy share a moment discussing what has just happened. The Moroni, Kirk says, showed the crew of the Orion how to feel compassion. And "the slave trader who knows compassion... is a slave trader no longer!" McCoy then wonders to himself if Kirk has forgotten that Starfleet will give him a desk job upon his return, and concludes that Kirk simply can't bring himself to remember it.
"I'm a captain without a ship... about as much use on land as a referee at a lover's quarrel."
- - Kirk, lamenting the loss of his captaincy
"Why is it all starship engineers – even aliens – talk with a Scottish brogue?"
- - Kirk's observation after first meeting the Chief Engineer of the Orion
"Morbus, you're scum!"
- - Kirk, expressing his feelings upon finding the slaves
As with Conway's prior two outings, this one deals with the theme of friends having to confront and fight each other because of circumstances. Admiral Yaramoto is drawn by Kulpa almost exactly the same way as Bob Myers drew his unnamed admiral, right down to the padded ring around the shoulder line of his Starfleet uniform. But he isn't smoking this time. Conway's having McCoy recall that he was mobilized back in Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a welcome note of continuity that is not overplayed. However, the statement that Vulcans have no heart is inexplicable, except that perhaps Conway felt the joke was worth it. Kirk's confusion at the end was justified as well; he did not have a handle on the situation at all until well after the Orion left Earth. Meaning that Spock allowed the slavers to leave orbit only to later chase them down. Although the Moroni could have requested that Spock do nothing, it is a questionable course of action. This is the third story arc in the comic strip to deal with slavery in and around the Federation.
- Admiral Yaramoto
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